The St. Xavier basketball team has found a winning strategy so far this season: Work itself into a close game and take care of business in overtime.
The Tigers rallied from 11 points down in the second quarter and nine points down in the fourth to force overtime against Western, then executed at the free-throw line for a 68-65 victory in the second round of the Republic Bank Louisville Invitational Tournament at Valley High.
Robert Shaw finished with 26 points, nine assists and four rebounds, and fourth-seeded St. X (13-2) made 9 of 9 foul shots in overtime as it improved to 4-0 in overtime games this season.
“At the end of the night when you walk away with a win like that, it’s so easy to be so proud of this team,” said St. X coach Kevin Klein, whose Tigers missed nine of their first 13 free throws before getting right in the extra session.
St. X guard Austin Chambers made all six of his free throws in overtime and finished with 10 points and five boards. Lucas Miller also had 10 points as the Tigers advanced to Friday’s 5:30 p.m. quarterfinal against fifth-seeded Pleasure Ridge Park (13-2).
Western (8-6), the No. 13 seed, played well from the tipoff. The Warriors took the lead at 9-8 midway through the first quarter and didn’t trail again until overtime.
Daykice Crumes led the Warriors with 19 points and five rebounds, and center Chris McCraw added 15 points and 10 boards. Kittrell Withers had 13 points and seven rebounds but was only 3 of 18 from the floor.
“We played very well, and St. X played very well,” Western coach Terrence Moorman said. “It came down to the overtime, and they made more shots at the end. Our kids gave about as much as they could give, and I think St. X’s kids did the same.”
Klein credited the Tigers’ preseason workouts and mental preparation for their focus in overtime games.
“These guys genuinely love each other and love coming to work every day, and when it becomes crunch time at the end of the game, they have the look of a champion,” the coach said.
Klein doubted that his team would have won without the clutch play of Chambers. He scored the tying layup late in the fourth quarter, then had swish after swish in overtime.
“I just took a deep breath, and my teammates assured me I was going to hit (them),” Chambers said. “Then I just settled down, bent my knees, overextended my arm and did what I’ve done a million times in the gym. I was lucky enough for (them) to go down.”
The Warriors got off to a 20-14 lead after the first quarter and a 25-14 lead early in the second.
Shaw, who was hard to stop on the dribble, answered with six straight points during a 9-0 St. X run that drew the Tigers within 25-23. Western led 32-27 at halftime.
“I think my teammates getting me the ball in transition and with the way I can attack put pressure on them before they could set up their zone,” Shaw said. “And I shot layups for most of the game basically.”
Western led again by nine, 45-36, early in the fourth quarter, but St. X chipped away, using three 3-pointers to come back.
Chambers’ runout layup with 1:36 to go tied the score at 57 — the first time Western did not lead since a 14-14 tie — and that remained the score going into overtime.
“We did not come ready to compete tonight,” Klein said of his team’s start. “I was disappointed with the first quarter, giving up 20 points, and we were playing catch-up all night. … But I just couldn’t be prouder of how the guys rallied.”
In overtime, St. X got up by a little and kept it that way.
Shaw’s basket with 2:28 to go gave St. X a 61-59 lead, and after the Tigers got the ball back, they held it for nearly 90 seconds before Shaw was fouled. He made two free throws for a four-point lead. St. X then made five more foul shots, including four from Chambers, to close it out.
– Crumes 19, McCraw 15, Withers 13, Malone 7, Moore 5, Howard 3, Bowen 2.Western(8-6)
– Shaw 26, Chambers 10, Miller 10, Burgess 8, Marquess 5, Boarman 5, Carr 2, McCormick 2.St. Xavier (13-2)
– Withers 3, Crumes 2, Moore, Miller 2, Shaw, Burgess, Boarman.3-point goals